It is a cold November morning. The mist hangs low over the fields and yellow leaves fall from the beech trees. We drive into the grounds of Knebworth estate towards the Winter Festival. The late morning sun diffuses through the sheltering branches and we spot a small herd of deer in the distance grazing. A fawn lifts her head as she hears us, still and inquisitive, yet gracious in her serenity.

The turrets and domes of Knebworth House appear up ahead. The carousel and Ferris wheel are the two main attractions at the festival entrance and further ahead there are lots of open-air places to eat, from a sweet-smelling crêperie to a bustling patisserie.

We enter a huge marquee and begin our explorations. I like the fact that it’s called the Winter Festival and doesn’t feel too Christmassy. I love taking those first few expectant steps not knowing what I’m going to see.

There’s an abundance of merchandise that I haven’t come across before like tobacco leaf and clementine scented candles, mistletoe diffusers, and pewter animal brooches. I never tire of these events as the stallholders are always finding new ways to express their creativity by developing their crafts and skills.

I spot a stall representing the Dove Tales boutique selling rose-gold bracelets in contemporary designs, crystal star earrings and shimmering scarves in a choice of subtle colors. I love their products and could easily spend all of my Christmas money right here. The two stall holders have been friends since childhood and tell me that their selection of gifts are inspired by the changing seasons which is how they keep their sparkling designs fresh.

I walk on to find my husband by the Cambridge Chocolate Company clutching a huge slab of colourful chocolate with chunks of mint aero sticking out of it! I buy him the chocolate immediately as he doesn’t look as if he has any intention of parting with it.

We walk by a charming stall that is beautifully lit with tea light candle domes in frosted glass with patterns of snowflakes, dandelions and Christmas scenes. I spot the word Wonderland written in 3D rose gold lettering lit and entwined with white fairy lights.

I linger at a stall packed with woollen scarves, hats and throws. I can see that they’re high-end British made products; the stallholder smiles and her opening line is “we keep our own Alpacas!” “Really?” I reply with surprise. I love her enthusiastic sales pitch and enjoy trying them on as we chat.

I buy a felt pencil case handmade by the stallholder in Nepal. I choose one with a colourful Unicorn embroidered on it for my little goddaughter. It’s designed with so much attention to detail and crafted with care.

A tiny stationery stall from Clerkenwell catches my eye displaying unusually coloured marble paper, origami kits in Christmassy designs and glass pots of ink. I buy some gilded paper chains for my daughter, imagining that she’s still a child and will enthusiastically hang them all over our living room walls.

Before we leave, we stop off for a cuppa and a chunky cream and chocolate doughnut. We smile at each other, halve it and dive in; as it is hardly our first date we let our noses sink into the cream! After a bracing ride on the carousel it’s home again, windswept and pleased that we’ve started our Christmas shopping.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city.